Monday, October 1, 2012

SS 'Westland' Regiment

After the fall of the Low Countries in June, Hitler commanded the SS to forming SS 'Westland' Regiment, a formation for Dutch and Flemish Belgian volunteers. The recruiting standards of the SS 'Westland' remained identical for both foreign and German applicants. Dutch and Flemish men, between seventeen and forty years of age, who could establish Aryan racial characteristics, attest to good health, and meet the minimum SS height (165 cm) would enlist in the SS 'Westland' Regiment for two to four years.

When Hitler ordered a slight expansion of the Waffen-SS, parallel to the spring 1941 Army expansion program for the coming offensive against the Soviet Union, SS 'Westland' Regiment became one of the infantry regiments of the new SS 'Wiking' division. The commander-in-chief of the ‘Wiking’ was SS-Brigadeführer Felix Steiner, one of pan-Germanic or European champions among Waffen-SS leadership.

Originally it was designated SS-Infanterie-Regiment ‘Westland‘ before renamed in November 1942 as SS-Panzer-Grenadier Regiment ‘Westland‘. By November 1943 it was finally designated as SS-Panzer-Grenadier Regiment 10 ‘Westland’. The first regiment commander was SS-Obersturmbannführer Hilmar Wäckerle, a former Dachau commander.

‘Westland’ saw action when 'Wiking' entered the war against Soviet Union. The division was placed in the Heeresgruppe Süd that received orders to conquer the Ukraine. 'Westland' lost its commander during the very first operations in enemy territory. On July 2nd 1941 SS-Standartenführer Hilmar Wäckerle was shot in the back by a Russian sniper while inspecting captured Russian weaponry and died. The next day, a company of 'Westland' took revenge and the village that had possibly hidden the Russian sniper received 'Vergeltungsfeuer' (reprisal fire) from the SS-soldiers.

Wäckerle was succeeded by Oberführer Artur Phleps and the regiment keeps fighting with the remaining division. ‘Westland’ encounters heavy resistance and suffered heavy losses: in the end of the July 1941, they lost 10 officers and 82 other ranks who were KIA, while 360 others wounded. The 'Westlanders' now knew for sure that the Red Army soldiers were prepared to defend their country at all costs.

On November 5th 1941, the regiment crosses the Mius River and advances north-eastwards towards Perwomaisk-Oktjabrisk, in order to reach the road to Astachowo. However, the Russian counterattacks towards the end of the month, including used a massive fire concentration with 'Stalin Organ', forced ‘Westland’ withdrew to the Mius. It was the hardest for the troops in the frontline, ground frozen to a depth of one meter with no winter clothing yet so they improvised. Their dugouts were about one meter high in the days of December 1941 and January 1942. Temperatures dropped to minus 40° C. According a report by Phleps, the regiment lost nearly 50% of its original strength within five months.

When spring 1942 arrived, Phleps leaves the regiment to take over a new SS mountain division, 'Prinz Eugen'. He is succeeded by at first SS-Obersturmbannführer Berthold Mack and later SS-Obersturmbannführer Paul Geiβler. Two battalions of ‘Westland’ were left in the Mius positions, while the third one was withdrawn into the Amwrosijewka area for some rest and re-fitting.

‘Westland’ participated during the German summer campaign of 1942 against Caucasus. They were strengthened by a battalion of Estonian volunteers. During the end of September and early October 1942, reinforced with a panzer battalion, ‘Westland’, with other ‘Wiking’ regiments succeed to taken the mountain strongholds of Ssagopschin and Malgobek after a heavy fighting.

However, the campaign in Caucasus ended when the Red Army threatened to cut off German forces operating in southern Russia after encirclement of the German 6th Army in Stalingrad during the winter 1942–1943. SS Division ‘Wiking’ was one of the first formations to be withdrawn to bolster the retreating 4th Panzer Army, entraining from 24 December for transport to Remontnaya, arriving there on 31 December. The division fell back through Zimovniki, Proletarskaya (holding open the bridge over the Manych), Zelina and Yegorlykskaya towards Bataisk and Rostov, finally escaping through the Rostov gap on 4 February. ‘Westland’, and the remaining ‘Wiking’ Division later participated during the Third Kharkov Battle, where they were held off the Soviet assault, protecting the vital rail line and helping bring about the destruction of Mobile Group Popov. During this battle, SS-Sturmbannführer Erwin Reichel, the new regimental commander was killed. He receives the Ritterkreuz posthumous for his actions. He was replaced by SS-Obersturmbannführer August Dieckmann.

After the recapture of Kharkov, ‘Wiking’ was pulled out of combat to be refitted as a Panzergrenadier division. ‘Westland’ lay as army reserve in Slawiansk. While the Operation Zitadelle was in effect, several Soviet formations attacked towards Orel and Kharkov simultaneously. The ‘Wiking’ was engaged against the forces near Kharkov. A battalion of the ‘Westland’ followed Kampfgruppe Dorr into Ssrednij. Russian counter-attacks were unsuccessful, but two weeks later they succeeded in creating a gap of 10km deep and 12km wide break-through.

During August 1943, ‘Westland’ moved into the area north-west of Kharkov and fought its eastern flank to the edge of the woods south of Olschany. Failure to stop the Red Army in Kharkov and Kiev, ‘Wiking’ Division engaged in defensive battles on the Dnieper River. The ‘Westland’ crossed the wide river in the Tscherkassy area, where it had already fought in August 1941, and fought heavy battles to capture the Russian bridgehead over the Dniepr, north of Kanev. The regiment suffered a great losses, including the death of Dieckmann, theirs commander, before they finally succeed to thrown back the Red Army to the east bank of the river.

After the bloody battle in Tscherkassy, the remaining ‘Wiking’, including ‘Westland’, survivors reorganized and grouped with the 3. SS Panzer Divison ‘Totenkopf’ under the IV. SS Panzer Korps command. They were served in Poland and Hungary, fought desperate battles against the Red Army juggernauts. The remaining ‘Westland’ survivors surrendered with rest division to Soviet troops in May 1945.   

Hilmar Wäckerle             21.08.1940-02.07.1941
Karl Diebitsch                  02.07.1941-05.07.1941
Arthur Phleps                  05.07.1941-26.01.1942
Berthold Maack               26.01.1942-01.04.1942
Paul Geisler                      01.04.1942- ?autumn 1942
Harry Polewacz                ? autumn 1942-12.01.1943
Erwin Reichel                    13.01.1943-28.02.1943
August Dieckmann           ? feb/march 1943-10.10.1943
Paul Massel                       ?15.11.1943-08.03.1944
Martin Kohlroser              ?08.03.1944-12.05.1944
Fritz Ehrath                       17.05.1944-11.09.1944
Franz Hack                         11.09.1944-surrender 08.05.1945

Sunday, September 30, 2012

August Schollen

August Schollen was born on the 11th of September 1916, a son of a greengrocer in Antwerp, Belgium. A Flemish separatist, he joined the Dinaso Militanten Orde (DMO). He later held an SS-Stormbanleider rank in the Germaansche SS in Vlandereen and lead Stormban III/1. He also got an SS-Untersturmführer rank and led a group of twenty Flemish SS who collaborated with the Sipo-SD and Feldgendarmerie to hunting Belgium Jewish.

Schollen was killed by Belgian resistance at the Schaarbeekse Poort in Brussel on the 4th of December 1942. His friend, SS-Onderstormleider Rob Verbelen, the leader of Stormban IV/1, reacted with revenge. After hanged 10 political prisoners in "Fort Breendonk", the Germaansche SS starting of a bloody war against Belgian patriot, where Verbelen organised a group of SS-men and committed a series of terror deeds against members of the resistance and distinguished people of society.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Trawniki Men

Rzeszow, Poland: German policemen and theirs Askaris auxilliaries abusing an injured Jewish man lying on the pavement.

Trawniki was a Nazi concentration camp located in the vicinity of Lublin town, Poland. Aside to hold tens of thousands prisoners—mainly Jewish—the camp also a ground training for SS-Police auxiliaries deployed in Operation ‘Reinhard’.  The first contingent recruits mainly came from ex-Soviet soldiers. Most of the then volunteered in order to leave the POW camps and/or because of self-interest. As German military reverses and the murderous treatment of the prisoners of war dried up the supply of suitable Soviet soldiers in the autumn of 1942, the next waves recruit came mainly from conscripted civilians, primarily young Ukrainians, residing in Galicia, Wolhynia (Volhynia), Podolia, and the Lublin District. They were nicknamed Trawnikis or Askaris by locals, Hilfswillige (or Hiwis) by Germans and Wachmänner by themselves.

At first, the training camp was at the disposal of the SS- und Polizeiführer (SS and Police Leader, or SSPF) for Lublin District, SS-Gruppenführer Odilo Globocnik. But later, it was placed under the supervision of SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Streibel, the newly christened Trawniki training camp commander, a position that he held until the evacuation of the camp in July 1944. 

The volunteers underwent basic military training, including instruction in the shooting and deportation of Jews. Between 1941 and 1944, the camp trained approximately 5,082 men. After their training, the volunteers receive the title of Wachmann, Rottenwachmann, Oberwachmann, Gruppenwachmann and Obergruppenwachmann.

Trawniki men were organized into 2 battalions of 4 companies each, nearly 1,000 men, under the command of SS-Untersturmführer Willi Franz and SS-Obserturmführer Johann Schwarzenbacher. Each company had between 100 and 200 men. One company was used to prepare squad commanders who were mainly Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans), bilingual in German and Ukrainian.

As a report of Globocnik, these units have “proved themselves in the best way in many anti-partisan missions, but especially in the framework of the resettlement of the Jews”. As an example, in the spring of 1943, 335 Trawniki men participated in the suppression of the uprising in the Jewish ghetto of Warsaw. During the street fighting, they lost almost 150 people. Many of them also were employed as guards in the extermination camps of Treblinka, Sobibor and Bełżec.  

The Trawniki training center continued to operate until late July 1944, when the rapid Soviet advance forced the Germans to abandon Trawniki and Lublin itself. On July 23, 1944, Soviet troops overran both Trawniki and Lublin. The remaining Trawniki men, numbering around 1,000 men, organized into the SS Battalion Streibel under SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Streibel. Fled in chaos to regroup west of the Vistula River, they were disintegrated in the territory of the present-day Czech Republic in the face of the Allied advance.

Copyright© 2012 by Nino Oktorino

Friday, August 24, 2012

Reference Materials about Norwegian Volunteers

Title                 Norske Offiserer i Waffen-SS
Writer             Geir Brenden, Tommy Natedal, Knut Flovik Thoresen
Publishing     2012
ISBN               9788292870648 (8292870644)
A story about 141 (out of 200+) Norwegians who graduated from SS-Junkeschule Bad Tölz. Each man has short bios (1-3 pages w/photo). Lots of interesting information on their wartime experiences as well (before the war, invasion of Norway, volunteering, at the front, at Bad Tölz, being officers, post-war imprisonment etc).

Title                Frontfighters: 
                        The Norwegian Volunteer Legion of the Waffen-SS, 1941-1943
Editor             Richard Landwehr
Publishing     Merriam Press, 2011
Page                202
ISBN              1435758536 (978-1435758537)
The Norwegian Volunteer Legion of the Waffen-SS, 1941-1943. Traces the unit through training, transfer to Russia, installation on the Leningrad front, re-assignment to Norway and final disbandment. 220 photos and illustrations.

Title                Nordmennen på Østfronten: 
                        deres egen historie i bilder
Writer            Egil Ulateig and Geir Brenden
Publishing    Forlaget Reportasje, 2005.
Page               164
ISBN              8299529972 (9788299529976)
A pictorial documenting book about Norwegians serving in the Waffen SS during World War II. The book contains around 200 pics, most of whom have never been published before, many being "happy snaps" taken by the soldiers themselves. All pictures are commented in both English as well as Norwegian. A general introduction to the subject of the book is also written in English. Otherwise the introduction of each chapter in the book is in Norwegian only. 

Title               SS-Schijäger Batallion "Norge": 
                       Norwegian ski infantry on the Eastern Front 1941-1944
Writer           Geir Brenden; Arne Håkon Thomassen; Laurent Lecocq
Publishing   Leandoer & Ekholm, 2011.
Page              254
ISBN             9789185657063 (9185657069)
A story of Norwegian frontfighters who fought above the Polar Circle during the war as an elite ski infantry battalion among SS ‘Nord’ Division ranks.

Title               De som falt: 
                       nordmenn drept i tysk krigstjeneste
Writer           Eirik Veum; Geir Brenden
Publishing    NRK, 2009.
Page               400
ISBN              9788281783003 (8281783001)
"De som falt" (Those who were killed). A collection information about hundreds Norwegian frontfighters who were killed for Hitler and theirs Germanic Empire’s dream during World War II.

Title              16 år og Hitlers soldat:  
                      historien om Ivar Skarlo, en norsk soldat på Østfronten
Writer          Odd Helge Brugrand
Publishing   Kagge, 2011.
Page              290
ISBN             9788248911654 (8248911659)
A dramatic story about a Norwegian teenager name Ivar Olsen, who joined Hitler’s army when he only sixteen and fought for the German military and political expansion on the Eastern Front during the Second World War. Lost his left arm at the age of eighteen, the strong boy survived the war and will be remembered as a hero in Estonia, but not in his native Norway. 

Title               På liv og død en frontkjempers erindringer: 
                       Ørnulf Bjørnstad med divisjon Wiking i Russland 1941-43
Writer           Ørnulf Bjørnstad
Publishing    Mapaid, 2011.
Page               135
ISBN              9789949217564
A memoirs of Ørnulf Bjørnstad, a member Nasjonal Sjamling, who served as a member of the Waffen-SS. He fought in the Eastern Front with the elite SS ‘Wiking’ Division from Dnieper river to Caucasus before discharge in June 1943.

Title                Veien mot undergangen historien om de norske frontkjemperne
Writer            Egil Ulateig
Publishing    Vega forl, 2010.
Page                390
ISBN               9788282111393 (8282111392)
A complete account of 6,000 Norwegian front fighters during World War II. Told about theirs true reasons to served Hitler’s army, theirs battles, and the harsh judgement that fall into theirs remaining life. Based on numerous primary sources.